The origins of a crudely made anti-Muslim movie that sparked violent protests in Egypt and Libya began to slowly emerge on Wednesday, with an actress in the California production saying she was duped and was unaware it was about the Prophet Mohammad.
Cindy Lee Garcia of Bakersfield, California, who appears briefly in clips of the film posted online, said she answered a casting call last year to appear in a movie titled Desert Warrior.
“It looks so unreal to me, it’s like nothing that we even filmed was there. There was all this weird stuff there,” Ms. Garcia told Reuters in a phone interview.
Clips of the movie, posted on YouTube under several titles including Innocence of Muslims,portrayed the Muslim prophet engaged in crude and offensive behavior. Many Muslims consider any depiction of the prophet as blasphemous.
Clips had been posted online for weeks before apparently triggering violent demonstrations on Tuesday at the U.S. embassy in Cairo and consulate in Benghazi, Libya, in which U.S. Ambassador to Libya Christopher Stevens and three other Americans were killed.
The Americans died after gunmen attacked the U.S. consulate and a safe house refuge in Benghazi in an attack U.S. government officials said on Wednesday may have been planned in advance. The attackers were part of a crowd blaming America for a film they said insulted the Prophet Mohammed.
Ms. Garcia said the film was shot in the summer of 2011 inside a church near Los Angeles, with actors standing in front of a “green screen,” used to depict background images. About 50 actors were involved, she said.
An expired casting notice at Backstage.com listed a film named Desert Warrior that it described as a low-budget “historical Arabian Desert adventure film.” None of the characters were identified in the casting call as Mohammad.
“They told me it was based on what it was like 2,000 years ago at the time of the Lord,” Ms. Garcia said. “Like the time Christ was here.”
Several U.S. news organizations on Tuesday night had reported that the film was produced by a man who identified himself as an Israeli-American property developer, Sam Bacile. He had told the media organizations that the film cost $5 million, some of which was paid by around 100 Jewish donors.
On Thursday, a U.S. law enforcement official says a man named Nakoula Basseley Nakoula is behind the anti-Muslim film being blamed for mob attacks in Egypt, Libya and Yemen.
A man who calls himself Sam Bacile has said he created the film, but The Associated Press on Wednesday connected Mr. Nakoula to the Bacile persona.
With a report from Associated Press